I just heard about that yesterday and I don't really understand what is wrong with print being viewed as default...is it not PC, somehow? I don't have the new version yet, so maybe it's explained in great detail.I hadn't thought about the longer bibliographies issue, but Ink is absolutely right. Maybe the MLA thinks that taking away its requirement for long URL citations will balance that out. The MLA giveth, and the MLA taketh away. And once the varieties of e-readers (Sony, Kindle, Kindle reader for iPhone, and the various tablet readers that are on the way) get involved, I suspect that the MLA Handbook, and our bibliographies, are about to get a whole lot longer.
Frankly, I just don't want to type "Print" a billion times on my Works Cited. Especially since we're all trying to go green and that just makes the bibliographies longer...sigh.
The MLA thought (and still thinks) it was important to specify the database, so we all do that, even though it seems unnecessary if you're citing a .pdf version of a print journal. Aren't they photographically identical? At least in the new version, you don't have to specify which library site you were in when you accessed JSTOR or EBSCO, which is an improvement (See 5.6.4). I can also see the necessity of specifying "Print" for the sciences, since so much of what they do is online, or for specialists in digital media areas within the humanities.
But for plain vanilla literature and literary history people? How many of the books you actually use, including new books, are available in any complete form online? (I don't mean Google's book snippets; they don't count.) In my field, that figure is about 3 out of 100, and I've looked assiduously (questia.com, netlibrary.com, books for the Kindle, etc.) to find books available in this form. Believe me, if they were available online, I'd be throwing money at them, since it would be so convenient to have them online.
Are there enough books online to justify this new MLA requirement of "Print" after what may turn out to be 97% of the books in a bibliography? What about the books you use; are they online enough to make this necessary?
[Updated to add: check out Ink's satiric post on this issue (link is above).]